Earlier this month, the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks squared off in Nashville for control of the Central division. The Hawks dethroned the Predators, and have spent majority of the time since (save a few pending games) precariously perched above the Preds.
Lo and behold, the tonight's meeting is more of the same. Chicago can pull farther away in the standings with a win, or Nashville can snatch the division back by virtue of their two games in hand. It seems these two teams may be doing this dance for the rest of the year. Whatever licks they need to get in, they should do it while they have the chance. This is already the last meeting of the season for these two clubs. I couldn't believe if either, but I scoured the Preds' schedule (⌘+F) and sure enough...
The Chicago Blackhawks
There isn't much to say at this point that we don't already know about the Blackhawks. They are rolling, (7-2-1 in their last 10) getting tons of face time on EPIX's NHL: The Road to the Winter Classic, and still have one of the best offenses in the league coupled with one of the best defenses. At least for the second-straight year Nashville is going to get some camera time.
Brad Richards is expected to return to the lineup after missing a week of action, and was skating with Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg. Corey Crawford is expected to start, unless he sprained his wrist helping someone crowdsurf at a Three Days Grace concert over the holiday.
Peter Laviolette should have a good idea how to deal with Chicago and the same goes for Joel Quenneville. Both teams are operating at full steam right now, so let's just sit back and let them duke it out.
The Nashville Predators
Five of a possible eight points with a series split seems a lot better than three of a possible eight with a 3-1 series loss. Ultimately, whatever gains or losses Chicago makes in the standings will no longer be determined by Nashville, but they can at least have a small say in tonight's four-pointer.
It's a shame these two teams won't meet again this season. A mid-March battle for position and primer for the playoffs could be just as entertaining as a late-December title fight. Should the two teams meet again, the weather's going to be a heckuva lot warmer and the stakes a lot higher. Soak it in, ladies and non-ladies, the atmosphere could get a little supercharged tonight.
Reasons to Watch
- It's Monday, what else are you doing?
- It's the annual Father's trip! You won't lack for shots of Dads in Preds jerseys.
- Filip Forsberg has a legitimate chance of tying, nay, breaking the Preds' rookie record before the calendar turns to 2015.
Sights and Sounds
The usual suspects have you covered: Pete and Stu on FS-TN and Willy and Brent on 102.5 The Game.